Welcome to Ask Clark, a column designed to answer your financial questions, by money expert Clark Howard.
My Spouse Owes $25,000. Will His Debt Impact the Assets We Have Together?
Jenna from North Carolina asks: “I recently learned that my husband has $25,000 in credit card debt. I knew that he had some debt — but not $25,000. Fortunately, my name is not attached to any of the credit cards. Although he takes full responsibility for the debt and promises to start focusing on getting them paid off, I’m still concerned it will impact any of our assets we have together, like our home.”
Clark’s Take on Whether a Spouse’s Debt Can Affect a Couple’s Shared Assets
Clark says: “Generally, you don’t want to own assets together with someone who has pre-existing debt.”
With that being said, Clark says your spouse’s debt won’t typically affect you unless you live in a community property state. In those states, each spouse is assigned equal liability: “The debt of one in a marriage is considered to be the debt of the other,” he says.
But because the caller is not attached to any of her husband’s credit card debt and doesn’t appear to live in a community property state, Clark says she should be in the clear.
“Your liability on the $25,000 does not exist,” Clark says. “But in the event that your husband was sued, assets that are jointly owned could potentially face some risk. But it’s a minor risk.”
Clark recommends that the couple seek out a credit counselor with their local affiliate of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling.
Here’s how to get in touch with the organization:
Clark recommends that this couple meets with a credit counselor to “work on a budget for your husband and work on a plan to pay off this $25,000.”
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